Council moves on policing
- Published: September 3, 2015
At their Aug. 24 meeting, Village Council members agreed to move forward in addressing concerns regarding local police and the community.
“We’re not just trying to wordsmith and make things sound nice. We want to address these issues,” Council member Brian Housh said.
At the meeting, Housh and Marianne MacQueen presented a draft vision statement for local policing, along with suggested steps for moving forward. The vision statement followed a yearlong community discussion on policing, with two Human Relations Commission, or HRC-sponsored forums on the topic, and a Council meeting last month that focused on the issue.
The vision statement can be viewed online at http://www.yso.com; click on Council packet for Aug. 24.
The topic was discussion only and no votes were taken. However, Council members agreed that at their Sept. 8 meeting they will address how best to approach a discussion on the local department’s membership in the ACE Task Force, a locally controversial issue. Council will also likely vote on the vision statement at that meeting.
Approving the vision document and deciding whether or not to stay in the ACE Task Force were two of the first “next steps” recommended to Council by Housh and MacQueen, who encouraged Council to act on the Task Force issue by the end of this year.
Housh and MacQueen also suggested that next year Council take up the questions of how best to use Mayor’s Court; whether the size of the local police department is appropriate or too large; and the creation of a review mechanism for resolution of citizen complaints. The “next steps” document also suggested that other local organizations, such as the HRC and the local Black Lives Matter group, could be engaged to consider how best to address local concerns.
It’s also critical that Council and Village government acknowledge the depth of concerns regarding police from some members of the community, especially minorities, MacQueen said.
“We know that racism exists. It exists in our community,” MacQueen said, emphasizing the impact of national news coverage of police shootings of black citizens. “We need to recognize that it’s happening.”
The vision statement, drafted with the input of Village Manager Patti Bates and Police Chief Dave Hale, included four overriding principles for the local department: that police be “safety-centered”; that police be “support-oriented,” acting with “compassion, flexibility and reasonableness, treating everyone fairly and consistently”; that police be “citizen-focused”; and that they be “locally-minded.”
Several principles emphasize the importance of connecting police officers to the community.
“Police officers need to get to know people in the community. There needs to be more relationship-building,” she said, stating that Chief Hale is already working with his officers on this goal.
MacQueen also cited the department’s recent efforts around training: four officers, including Chief Hale, last week completed the 40-hour Crisis Intervention Training, or CIT, and two officers, Hale and Sergeant Naomi Penrod, recently completed eight-hour diversity training.
“Clearly the chief is working on having the department meet the needs of the community,” MacQueen said.
Regarding relationship-building, Manager Bates said she is already working on a citizen’s proposal that the Village sponsor “Coffee with a Cop,” in which citizens can meet police one-on-one at a local coffee shop. Villager Chrissy Cruz suggested that the gatherings could also include neighborhood potlucks, which officers’ family members could also attend.
While the efforts are gaining momentum, results won’t happen overnight, Bates emphasized.
“Over time we can change attitudes on both sides of the street,” Bates said. “But I hope people understand this will take time.”
In other comments regarding police, Housh announced that videos of police encounters with citizens are public documents and can be viewed. Recently, he viewed a video of the encounter between police and villagers during a recent incident when out-of-towners bearing Confederate flags stopped downtown, as described by a citizen in a letter to the editor in last week’s News. The citizen stated that the officer treated the local citizens, who were African Americans, with more hostility than they treated the white out-of-towners.
However, Housh said he did not view hostile behavior from police during the encounter.
“I take issue that the officers were being aggressive,” he said. He also stated he’s been impressed in watching videos of local police with “the calm collected attitudes of the officers, but not always the attitudes of citizens. We need to address the assumptions that are being made.”
In response, Yolanda Simpson, who identified herself as the writer of the letter to the editor regarding police, addressed Housh’s statement.
“I take exception that you demeaned and belittled my letter,” she said. “What I described was my experience.”
During citizens’ comments, Athena Fannin, who had previously initiated a lawsuit against Sergeant Penrod for assault concerning a November incident, told Council that recently a car that followed her in an aggressive manner fit the description of Penrod’s personal car, although the windows were too tinted to see who was driving. She encouraged the Village to enforce laws that prohibit tinted windows in regard to Penrod’s vehicle.
Other items of Council’s Aug. 24 business will be in next week’s News.
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